“I don’t know where you heard it. Don’t know who’s spreadin’ it ’round. All I know is I’m clean as a whistle, baby. I didn’t utter a sound.” – Liz Phair, Never Said
I love Jed Hoyer just as much as the next Cubs fan, but trying to get a straight answer from the president of baseball operations is like trying to steal a banana from a chimpanzee. Hoyer held court before yesterday’s 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks and showed an astute sidestep when talking about Willson Contreras and the team’s timeline to be competitive that would make the most-seasoned politicians jealous.
It’s been widely assumed that the Cubs will trade Contreras, but that may not be the case. The catcher has an upcoming arbitration hearing and it’s possible he could finish the season in Chicago, enter free agency, and then discuss a long-term contract. If the team does go that route, one would think the two sides are close on whatever the starting catcher’s numbers are and that they’re willing to let Contreras test the open market.
Hoyer focused on how the universal DH has helped Contreras and the Cubs. Without directly saying so, the executive admitted that allowing his catcher to occasionally get out from behind the plate provides much more value to the organization because he can be in the lineup every day. The new rule may have also been the impetus behind signing Yan Gomes, who could start for at least a handful of teams. Many saw the addition of Gomes as a redundancy in the event of a trade, and Contreras has always taken the rumors in stride.
“We wanted to see that,” Hoyer said per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “He’s a guy that, he wants to play every day. You’re not going to have a backup that’s going to hit like him. So without the DH, it was really hard to take his bat out of the lineup. We wanted to see how this would be if he got more rest. So far, so good. So, I’m going to not answer your question directly, but sort of indirectly.”
Hoyer was equally evasive when talking about the team’s next window of contention. He said he was thrilled to see the successful debut of Christopher Morel and indicated that watching the ascension of minor league stars to the big leagues makes heading to the ballpark enjoyable. However, Hoyer played coy when speaking about the team’s future.
“I don’t want to put exact years on it like you want me to,” Hoyer said. “It’s hard because we did trade for a lot of guys that are in the lower levels and a lot of people felt like, because of that, ‘OK, they’re signaling exactly when they’re going to be competitive.’ Waiting on the development of a group of Minor Leaguers is really, really challenging.
“I don’t think you can tie a team’s competitiveness to a group of guys in the low Minors. Certainly, I think a lot of those guys are going to play a big role here, but I don’t want to just think about their timeline as being our timeline.”
The Cubs have a number of veterans on short-term deals, so expect the front office to remain nimble as the trade deadline approaches. Even with expanded playoffs, the Cubs don’t have the look or feel of a top-six NL team. At 15-22, they’re definitely sellers and may start the process of acquiring more younger talent as soon as next month.
What Hoyer eventually does with Contreras may be a bit of a tell, however. If the executive thinks his team can compete next year, he’ll probably refrain from trading the team’s longest-tenured homegrown player. If Hoyer and his front office believe the Cubs are still a couple of years away, that may make the catcher expendable, and that could mean Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman will join him as potential trade candidates.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hoyer indicated that there is no tension between Contreras and the team as they head toward arbitration.
- The Mets are said to be targeting Cubs OF Jason Heyward in an attempt to get Contreras. This is not a drill!
- Caleb Kilian may make his big debut a little sooner than most are expecting.
- Tony Andracki of Marquee Sports Network provided notes on Kilian and fellow prospects Brennen Davis and Brailyn Márquez.
- Morel boasts a multi-dimensional skill set that makes him an intriguing option for the rebuilding Cubs. He had a stolen base last night, though he was hitless. If he continues to produce he could make Patrick Wisdom a trade candidate.
- Today is Fergie Jenkins Day and we should all celebrate accordingly.
- Stroman’s return marked the first time this season that the Cubs’ entire rotation was intact.
- Stroman said his battle with COVID-19 was a little tougher than he expected.
- Zach Davies‘ ex-wife said she has been ghosted for over a year by the former Cubs starter.
Apropos of Nothing
With the Mets in need of rotation help, I couldn’t help but think what a dick move it would be if Hoyer traded Stroman back to them this season.
Odds & Sods
Anthony Rizzo makes a solid case here. MLB umpires forcing themselves into the spotlight is becoming one of the more tiring aspects of the national pastime.
"I'm better than that! You know I'm better than that."
Anthony Rizzo gets ejected for the third time in his career. He watched two bad strike calls go by then argued when the same pitch was called a ball to the next batter pic.twitter.com/quddnrKvmK
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) May 19, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“So batten down the hatches, baby, and leave your heart out on your sleeve. It looks like we’re in for stormy weather.” – John Hiatt, Feels Like Rain
The hot-and-cold Cubs ran into a buzzsaw in Zac Gallen last night and looked almost helpless at the plate. The veteran right-hander has allowed one run or less in six of his seven starts. The Cubs were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base in last night’s contest. The lone highlight was an RBI double by Gomes. Seiya Suzuki struck out two more times and just looks lost at the plate.
- Games Played: 37
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,359
- Total Strikeouts: 334
- Strikeout Rate: 24.58%
- Team Batting Average: .231
How About That!
Super agent Scott Boras said to forget any rumors about a possible Juan Soto trade, but there are still plenty of players likely to be dealt in the next 8-12 weeks. The NY Post list of trade candidates includes Ian Happ but not Wade Miley, which was a little surprising to me.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Trevor Story – The Red Sox infielder had a career game yesterday. Story was 4-for-4 with five runs scored, three home runs, and seven RBI. Oh wait, he also stole a base.
- Luis Robert – The 19-19 White Sox have struggled this year and the calls to fire Tony La Russa grow louder with each loss. That said, Robert has been one of the team’s bright spots, and last night he capped a 3-for-4 night with an 8th-inning two-run jack to seal Chicago’s 7-4 win over the Royals.
- Yu Darvish – The former Cub held the Phillies scoreless over seven innings with five strikeouts while improving to 4-1 on the season.
They are definitely not using the dead ball for NCAA baseball games. Have a night, Kyle Huckstorf!
Iowa and Indiana played an absolutely ridiculous college baseball gamehttps://t.co/via32y6FV1
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) May 20, 2022
Friday Morning Six-Pack
- New York City health officials are investigating a possible case of monkeypox, a rare virus.
- After years of difficulties and despite thruster issues discovered shortly before liftoff, Boeing’s space taxi, the Starliner, launched to orbit yesterday.
- The NBA is down to its final four in this year’s quest for a champion, and the four players to watch over the next few weeks are Luka Dončić (Mavericks), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Jimmy Butler (Heat), and Jayson Tatum (Celtics).
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver is speeding to the rescue of WNBA star Brittney Griner. Silver is working “side by side” with NBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, the White House, and The State Department to expedite Griner’s release from a Russian prison.
- It’s been a rough week for investors and hedge fund managers, so the overall market sentiment shouldn’t surprise you.
- One of the more intriguing undrafted free agents to sign with the Bears is Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn, and he’s already listed at No. 2 on the strong side behind Matthew Adams on Chicago’s depth chart. Adams is probably a long shot to make the team so it’s not impossible that this kid could end up starting.
They Said It
- “The real goal is to stockpile the talent through player development. We’ve put a lot of resources [into] that and made some trades the last couple of years that [have] helped bring in more talent. A big credit should go to our pitching development and Craig Breslow leading that. He’s changing some philosophies and trying new things. He’s had success and failures and found his way to implement new stuff that seems to be paying off pretty well right now.” – David Ross
- “I felt like everybody talked about the Cubs [struggling to] develop pitching. Now we’re just feeding them to the big leagues. Me, Keegan Thompson, Scott Effross… [there are] so many guys coming up behind us. Caleb Kilian, Kohl Franklin, Cam Sanders, all those guys are just as good. They’re going to be here at some point. It’s exciting.” – Justin Steele
Friday Walk-Up Song
Blue Indian by Widespread Panic